Is D-Lee Slumping or at the Beginning of the End?

Early on everything about Derrek Lee looked good. His April line was .371/.446/.705 for Christ's sake. The old D-Lee was back, right? Well, that wasn't, and still isn't, the case. Not by a long shot. We all have seen the double plays, but not just has he been playing worse, he is a different player. His approach has changed and that stands out when  looking at his numbers. Since April, he hasn't posted a SLG over .442 or ISO over .177 in any month. In the past when Lee slumped he at least had walks to fall back on, but this year he doesn't seem to have the same patience. Maybe he is pressing and swinging too much, or maybe pitchers aren't afraid of him anymore and going at him more often. Whatever it is, his BB rate is down and he is swinging at more pitches both in and out of the zone, as well as seeing slightly fewer pitches per plate appearance. In terms of his HR stroke, his HR/FB rate is exactly the same as last year's, but he is not lifting enough fly balls to generate a high total of dingers. His FB% has decreased each year since 2004 and is now all the way down from 40.5% to 33.6%. He is hitting a respectable amount of line drives but his increased GB% is problematic for a first baseman, even one as "fast" as Lee. The latter is clearly the reason for his enormous amount of GIDP. All that said, Lee is still eleventh in the league in VORP and still is a good fielder, but the former is propped up by his superb April and is misleading. Lee is still a good player, but unless he suddenly changes over the next few months, the Cubs need to start thinking about grooming a replacement for down the road, Maybe Josh Vitters, who is blocked by Ramirez, can move to first when he is ready, but lets not get to far ahead of ourselves. Either way, Lee has regressed badly since his huge 2005 and the Cubs would do well to take notice.

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